Darjeeling – the name itself is enough to make us go on a nostalgic trip about the good times that we spent there. And then there is a sudden urge to revisit Darjeeling! Is there any place that does the same thing to you? While there are a lot of things to do in Darjeeling and a variety of attractions, one of our favourite places in Darjeeling is the Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta. Just like the Mall Road in Shimla and the MG Marg in Gangtok, Darjeeling Mall Road is equally a delight for pedestrians and all the travellers and tourists visiting the town.
Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta is the heart of Darjeeling town. It is located on the top of Nehru Road and no vehicles are allowed in and nearby Darjeeling Mall. So you can simply walk around the Mall at your will, sit down and enjoy the warmth of the sun and enjoy the views of Kanchenjunga ranges on a bright clear morning. For us, Darjeeling Mall is the most happening place in entire Darjeeling having all the best tea shops, cafes, restaurants and curio shops. And then there are young boys offering pony rides to the tourists. There is always a lot of noise, cacophony and movement at Darjeeling Mall. It is like the social centre of Darjeeling.
Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta – where the four roads meet
Darjeeling Mall is also known as Chowrasta. “Chow” literally means four and “rasta” means road. In short, Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta is the place where 4 roads meet. The Nehru Road comes up from below to the Mall. Then there is the Dr. Zakir Hussain Road that is parallel to the Nehru Road. This road has a bustling Bhutia market. Finally, the Mall Road originates from one side of the Darjeeling Mall, goes around the Observatory Hill and comes back to the Mall from the other side. There are a few other narrow lanes from Darjeeling Mall going here and there. Basically, the Darjeeling Mall area is like a circle with the various roads meeting there.
At one end of the Darjeeling Mall, there is a golden statue of Nepali poet Bhanubhakta Acharya. Born in 1814, he was the one to translate the Hindu epic Ramayana into Nepali from Sanskrit. There is a large concrete stage area behind the statue for holding functions and public ceremonies. We had once visited Darjeeling during Republic Day. A Republic Day procession was held in the open area of the Darjeeling Mall and later cultural programs were held at the stage.
What can you do at Darjeeling Mall?
Like I said before, Darjeeling Mall is the place where you can actually see the social fabric of the town. While you can go for sightseeing the whole day but do keep some time to spend at Darjeeling Mall in your itinerary. We both love spending time there and highly recommend strolling around the Darjeeling Mall and the nearby roads. So what can you actually do there?
Sit on the benches and enjoy the sun
Darjeeling Mall is the best place to bask in the morning sun. If you are an early riser, come to the Darjeeling Mall area in early morning. You will see many locals there coming for morning walk and exercise. There are also a few benches and exercise equipment near the Mall Road for those who want to flex their muscles. You can visit the Mall area after having your breakfast. On a clear day, the Kanchenjunga ranges are seen clearly from the Darjeeling Mall. There is also a viewpoint on the Mall road for a better view of the mountain ranges.
Enjoy a cup of Darjeeling Tea
While there are many well-known Tea Boutiques around the Darjeeling Mall, the local tea vendors also sell some excellent tea. Sit down at the benches, relax and have a cup of steaming Darjeeling tea.
Shop till you drop
The Darjeeling Mall and the nearby roads have a variety of shops and eateries. Just as you enter the Darjeeling Mall from the Nehru Road, the first thing you will probably notice is the familiar signboard of Café Coffee Day. I would not suggest you to go to Café Coffee Day for a drink, but rather visit the ones that Darjeeling is known for. For Darjeeling tea, visit Nathmulls and Golden Tips Tea Lounge. For coffee, visit Keventers and Glenarys on the Nehru Road. You can buy Darjeeling tea from either Golden Tips or Nathmulls. Darjeeling Tea is one of the best souvenirs that you can carry from India.
The book lovers must visit Oxford Book and Stationery, one of the oldest book stores in Darjeeling. This book store has some rare collection of books on Darjeeling and Himalayas. You will also see a few souvenirs, especially from Darjeeling that you can carry back home. Just beside Oxford Book Store, stands Habeeb Mullick & Sons. This is one of the best shops in Darjeeling Mall selling curios, artwork, special jewellery and other handicrafts. There are a couple of other curio shops also on the Mall. Nehru Road also has a number of shops that you can visit.
Ride a pony
A few young men offer pony rides to tourists in Darjeeling Mall. While we do not prefer riding on the horses or any other animal, but children usually enjoy a pony ride. A short pony ride will cost about Rs 100.00 while a longer one going around the Mall Road will cost around Rs 200.00.
Take a heritage walk around the Darjeeling Mall
Darjeeling once served as a British settlement area and thus the town has a number of British colonial architecture and heritage around. The British East India Company had acquired Darjeeling in the year 1835. Prior to that Darjeeling was a part of Sikkim and of Nepal for a brief period of time. Darjeeling was made to serve as a sanatorium for the British in India and as a result, the British administration built a lot of buildings and roads. Tea plantations were also introduced in Darjeeling and finally, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways was introduced as a railway link between the hills and the plains.
There are a few landmarks still standing in Darjeeling town that bears the history and heritage of the place. And a number of them are around the Darjeeling Mall. So if you have sufficient time in hand, you can walk around the area and explore these landmarks. These are usually not covered in your usual Darjeeling sightseeing packages.
We have visited Darjeeling quite a number of times and roamed around the Darjeeling Mall area, sometimes aimlessly as well. We had explored these places and found out some interesting and hidden gems in Darjeeling. If you are interested in the history of Darjeeling, you can walk around the Darjeeling Mall area like we usually do. Let me share the details here.
While in Darjeeling, we usually stay on the Nehru Road or at Hotel Revolver on Gandhi Road. We start our walk from Gandhi Road and the first heritage building that comes on our way towards the Mall is the Darjeeling Municipality Building on the Ladenla Road, which is almost parallel to the Gandhi Road and meets near the Nehru Road.
The famous Clock Tower is a part of the Municipality Building. The bell of the clock is heard every hour from the Darjeeling Mall as well. The Municipal Building was constructed in 1850 and was the Town Hall of Darjeeling. Later it was converted into the Municipality building.
A little ahead is the Darjeeling Post Office. The post office was opened in 1921 and is a UNESCO Heritage Building. This is one of the oldest post offices in the region.
From Gandhi Road, you will come to the Nehru Road. Just at the junction of the two roads stands Keventers, the famous eatery in Darjeeling. Keventers was once the part of the famous Edward Keventer’s Dairy Farm. The farm was known for its dairy and piggery products. Today, Keventers is a famous restaurant in Darjeeling serving English breakfast.
Our morning in Darjeeling always starts by having breakfast at Keventers or Glenary’s. After a sumptuous breakfast, we start our walk along the Nehru Road towards the Darjeeling Mall Chowrasta. On Nehru Road, there are a number of shops, some of which are quite famous.
The most famous and iconic one is the Das Studio, one of the oldest studios in Darjeeling. According to us, Das Studio is like the mecca of all photographers. Whenever we pass by the Das Studio, we just have to stop and look at the wonderful pictures displayed. The Das studio was established by Mr Thakur Das Pradhan in 1927 at the Mount Pleasant Road, near the present-day market. Later the studio was shifted to the shops at the Nehru road. The studio has a number of pictures of old Darjeeling area.
Glenarys Bakery and Restaurant is another good place to eat in Darjeeling. Cakes, muffins, chocolates, croissants – you get whatever your heart desires at Glenarys. This is one of my favourite places in Darjeeling, especially for the mouth-watering chocolates. The bakery and restaurant were established almost 100 years back.
Walk along the Nehru Road until you reach Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta. Roam around the Chowrasta, visit the shops or simply sit and relax at the benches for some time.
Then take the Mall Road on the right towards the Observatory Hill. At the corner, you will see a poster about the films shot in Darjeeling. Try and see how many you watched?
There are a number of Bhutia hawkers selling woollens in their makeshift shops. You will get sweaters, scarfs, gloves, socks, trousers and many other things in these shops at a reasonable price.
The Mahakal Temple and the Observatory Hill will fall on the way. To visit the Mahakal Temple, you have to take the stairs and walk uphill. On the way, you will see a part of the Windermere Hotel, another heritage hotel in Darjeeling. From the top of the hill, you get a sweeping view of the mountain peaks and valleys. There is a Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva which is said to have been built in the 1700s. This is said to be the oldest Shiva temple in the region. There used to a monastery here as well, which was destroyed by lightning long back.
Just keep walking along the Mall Road. If the weather is clear, you will see a good view of the Kanchenjungha ranges.
Once you walk around the Mall, you cannot really miss the yellow old colonial structure – the Andrew’s Church. The church was built under the supervision of Captain Bishop in the year 1843. Many Scottish soldiers, Britishers and tea planters living in the Darjeeling area were the early worshippers of this church.
The Darjeeling Gymkhana Club is also nearby. The club was established in 1909. The club is fully functional even after 110 years. It has an excellent library, several badminton courts, card room and many more. These facilities are available to the members only. But the club allows temporary membership to guests as well.
The Government House or the Raj Bhavan is further down the Mall Road. In the late 1800s it was the personal property of the British. Later it served as the residence of the Governor of Bengal in British India. Later the property was bought by the King of Coochbehar and later went on to the Government of India.
By this time, you will take the round road towards the Darjeeling Mall again and after a few minutes’ walk you will be back at the Mall.
Darjeeling Walks – Few more places that you can visit
The Old Cemetery
Cemeteries tell a lot of stories. The old Darjeeling cemetery just lies on the Lebong Cart road and can go unnoticed if you are really looking for it. The history buff in us took us to the Cemetery. Through under ASI, the place was totally not looked after and was overgrown with grasses and weeds. But here you will find the grave of the discoverer of Darjeeling – Lt. General Lloyd and the great Hungarian linguist Alexander Csoma de Koros who compiled the first dictionary and grammar of Tibetan Language.
Darjeeling Zoo and HMI
Darjeeling Zoo and HMI are located off the Lebong Cart Road. Those who want some activity can walk to the Darjeeling Zoo. We have done this several times and walking through the roads of Darjeeling is quite a beautiful experience.
Himalayan Tibetan Museum & the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre
This is the newest museum in Darjeeling inaugurated on 2nd July 2015 by revered Tibetan guru Gurung Tulku Nima Hoiser Rinpoche during the 80th birthday celebration of Dalai Lama. The Museum mainly focuses on the history and culture of Tibetans rather than religion. Once you visit, you will get an insight about the Tibetans and their way. The Museum is located on the Gandhi road.
The Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre was started on October 2, 1959, after the escape of his Holiness Dalai Lama from Tibet. The refugees adopted the principle of self-help so that they could become self-independent and completely rehabilitate themselves in a foreign country. Now the make various handicrafts that are ready for sale.
Reaching the Himalayan Tibetan Museum and Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre can be quite a long walk. So take any shared car from Darjeeling Chowk Stand towards Lebong. Ask them to drop you near the Tibetan Refugee Centre. From there you have to take the uphill path to reach the place located on top of the hill.
Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta is the heart of Darjeeling. Exploring the place is one of the best experiences of Darjeeling and we never get enough of it. I am sure, by this time you have fairly understood that we visit Darjeeling whenever we can! Our typical day in Darjeeling starts with a heavy breakfast at Keventers or Glenarys and then strolling around the Darjeeling mall or Chowrasta.
Do you know about our favourite place to hang out in Darjeeling? It’s the benches on the Mall Road after crossing the Observatory Hill. We can sit there for hours looking at the people walking by, and if the sky is clear, watching the Kanchenjunga ranges in awe. A lady usually sells tea and snacks there. We can totally vouch for the black tea she serves. It is better than served in many of the restaurants in Darjeeling.
We love walking around the Darjeeling Mall Road, for each time we discover a new road, a beautiful cottage or some hidden gem in Darjeeling.
Are you planning to visit Darjeeling? And do not know where to start? Head on to our resources on Darjeeling to know about the place and plan your trip to Darjeeling.